Poverty drives a mercedes
Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
248Trip End Aug 15, 2008
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With no direct buses, it was a case of getting a bus to Ulcinj (the southern tip of the Montenegran coast), a minibus from there over the border to Shkodra and then another minibus down to Tirana. I barely even had to wait anywhere. I think the only reason it took the better part of half a day was because of the state of Albania's roads. That's an experience in itself!
Tirana is different. The second poorest country in Europe, and it's very obvious in the capital. Not so much for beggars or anything like that (it's no worse than any other country in that respect), but more so in the general condition of the city
Until you get to Blloku, that is. Once the Communist Party elite hang out, and closed to the public until 91, it now sits in stark contrast to the rest of the city. Everything seems sparkling and clean, trees line the streets and trendy cafes are everywhere. It could be in any modern capital in Europe, yet walk for one minute and you're back in the poverty the rest of Tirana enjoys.
The weirdest thing about Tirana? Everyone drives expensive cars here. About 3/4 of the cars you see are either BMW, Audi, VW or Mercedes; 1/2 of that number (at least) has to be Mercedes. There's quite a lucrative black market in stolen cars here, it seems.
Still, I enjoyed the difference here. I've been in Europe for so much longer than anticipated, and things were beginning to get a little bit repetitive. Coming down here has been a bit of a shock to the system in a good way. Also, the one hostel in Tirana was a nice place, oddly set in the middle of the Embassy district. Strange to be sitting on the balcony of an evening and see armed guards walking past.